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    Salt Lake City: what to see in the city and in the Great Salt Lake region

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    Martí Micolau

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    If you are coming from Las Vegas, Arizona or southern Utah and are taking a tour of the West Coast to Yellowstone Park, you will most likely make a stop at Salt Lake City, the capital of Utah, which among other things also hosts one of the reference airports for visiting the national park.

    Known to all as the "Vatican" of the Mormons, this is a relatively small and pleasant city, surrounded by some interesting natural attractions and a series of very impressive sacred buildings - we would say bizarre! - who have consecrated this city as the most significant place to understand the nature of Mormonism.

    But it is worth spending a day or more in the hospital Salt Lake City? To see in this city, usually conceived as a simple stop over in preparation for a visit to the natural wonders of Yellowstone?

    For my personal experience this city turned out to be a pleasant surprise: in fact, contrary to what I often hear, the things to see in Salt Lake City are not limited to the nerve area of Temple Square, but also to the more peripheral areas, not to mention the surroundings, where real natural pearls are hidden. This means that you could easily spend 3 days in the valley of the Great Salt Lake without regretting it ... don't you believe me? Here are all the attractions that await you!


    • Where it is
    • Salt Lake City what to see: attractions in the center
      • Temple Square: what to see Temple Square
      • Salt Lake City Capitol Building
      • City Creek
    • Foothill Cultural District: area east of downtown
      • This is the Place Heritage Park
      • Red Butte Gardens
      • Natural History Museum of Utah
      • The Living Room
      • Hogle Zoo
      • Utah Museum of Fine Arts
    • NBA a Salt Lake City: gli Utah Jazz
    • Where to eat
    • Salt Lake City and Surroundings: Nature Tours and Excursions
      • Antelope Island State Park
      • Hill Aerospace Museum
      • Tour del Great Salt Lake State Park
      • Bonneville Salt Flats
      • Wasatch Mountains
      • Big Cottonwood Canyon Road
      • Kennecott Copper Mine
      • Salt Lake City Tour to National Parks
    • Where to sleep in Salt Lake City

    Where it is

    In July 1847, Mormon leader Brigham Young, with the famous expression “This is the place”, elected the Great Salt Lake Valley as the area where his religious community would be established. From there was born Salt Lake City (the city of the salt lake), which is located on the northern side of Utah, just over 100 km from the Wyoming border. Its location and its important airport make it one of the gateways (along with Denver) to the so-called Real America, the region that includes Wyoming, Montana, North and South Dakota, whose main attraction is Yellowstone, and which is located north of the city. To the south, however, over 3oo km away, the great red rock parks of Utah await you.

    Salt Lake City what to see: attractions in the center

    So let's go and discover the best attractions of Salt Lake City. What to see in the city center?

    Temple Square: what to see Temple Square

    This square is by far the most interesting place to see in the city: quiet, tidy and rational, Temple Square it is mainly dominated by the imposing Mormon temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the best known in the world.

    You can enter the main area of ​​the square from the two entrance gates (S Temple and N Temple, corresponding to the two visitor centers) and take advantage of the guided tours of the available faithful, who will take you on a tour of the buildings and give you useful information to dispel doubts and perplexities about Mormonism, the real reason for existence of the entire Salt Lake City. Not to be overlooked are the 2 visitor centers, with really well-curated exhibitions. Here's what not to miss in Temple Square.

    Beehive House

    Let's imagine entering from the south and heading towards Beehive House, 2 steps from the Eagle Gate, where we will be greeted by a guide who will explain how this building surrounded by trees was one of the residences of Brigham Young, historical president of the Mormon Church, during the religious settlement in Utah of the settlers. The architect of the Beehive House is the same as the Salt Lake Temple and, nearby is Young's other house, Lion House, built some time before and now also a restaurant. The guided tour is free.

    Salt Lake Temple

    There is no doubt: our attention will always and in any case be attracted by the very high spiers of Salt Lake Temple, a majestic Gothic building that cannot be visited inside - as it is entirely reserved for worship - but which offers all its grandeur to the eyes of the visitors who surround it along the tree-lined paths that wind around the gates. The building, built on the model of Solomon's temple, is at its best when illuminated in the Salt Lake City night.


    As you walk around the temple, your attention will be captured by the Tabernacle, a massive oval-shaped building that dominates another large portion of the center of Temple Square. Here you can enter: do it, and take a look at the huge organ that dominates behind the choir.

    If you don't want to miss a concert by the ensemble performing in this fabulous setting, you can take advantage of this organized tour of Salt Lake City: the city tour culminates with a concert from the choir!

    More information on the tour-event

    Assembly Hall

    The last relevant building is theAssembly Hall, located at the southwestern corner of the square. Built on the outside in the Gothic style, this hall may be reminiscent of a Gothic cathedral, but not on the inside - which is a bit disappointing.

    Bingham Young Monument

    Upon exiting the S Temple gate again, it is worth going to see it in the face Bingham Young, the man who colonized the Salt Lake area in the mid-nineteenth century and gave rise to this incredible religious citizen fervor. The statue stands on the road and opens the gaze wide to the 63 meters of the temple spiers, in the background.

    Family History Library

    The contrast between the gothic heart of the square and the skyscrapers that frame it is striking: one of the modern buildings is the Family History Library, a singular museum with free admission that stands as one of the world reference points for genealogical studies: the documentation found there is surprising, and you can raise some curiosities not bad, why not?, even about your own family.

    Salt Lake City Capitol Building

    The capitol of the capital of Utah
    Mormon Battalion Monument

    From the Family History Library, look for the parallel Main Street and head north of Temple Square for about a mile - you can do it on foot, although the uphill street is first by car as there is also free on-site parking. You will arrive at the foot of a hill surmounted by State Capitol, the grand capitol of Utah: reach the top and enjoy the panorama of Salt Lake City embraced by the distant mountains. You can enter for free and take a look at the frescoes depicting pieces of early American history, which decorate the elegant architectural structures of the capitol.

    View from the Capitol

    Very pleasant is also the green space in the surroundings, starting from the Capitol garden, with the graceful pergola and the Mormon Battalion Monument, up to the eastern slopes of the hill, where you can relax along the pleasant shaded paths along the river del Memory Grove Garden,.

    City Creek

    Before returning to the hotel, you can drop by City Creek, an elegant shopping area south of Temple Square. Go shopping and meet the friendly eyes of the people of Salt Lake City.

    Foothill Cultural District: area east of downtown

    Here is the clear demonstration that a complete visit of Salt Lake City cannot be limited to the central area alone. the cultural district of Foothill, where the University of Utah is located, is full of museums, parks, hiking trails and green spaces, a truly pleasant area to explore. To reach it you will have to use the rental car. These are the things not to miss in this area:

    This is the Place Heritage Park

    Here is the best way to continue your journey to discover the history and culture of the Mormons: in the shadow of the mountains, you will find the well-kept This is the Place Heritage Park, a park that recalls the phrase Bingham Young uttered when he arrived in Salt Lake City and chose it as the place of choice for the Mormon religion.

    Here it is Heritage Village - reconstruction of a nineteenth-century Mormon village - and the Statuary Walk, a walk on a path dotted with statues reminiscent of characters and episodes from Mormon history. The village is really well reconstructed and the costumed figures will help you to immerse yourself in another era. Go inside the various houses and have a chat with blacksmiths, farriers, bankers, innkeepers and many other figures who made up the nucleus of the Mormon community of the past.

    Red Butte Gardens

    In these fascinating botanical gardens, locals are often provided with blankets and drinks to find an oasis of peace and relaxation, or admire the incredible variety of flower species this park has to offer. The management of the gardens is also very active with events, guided tours and activities for children. Check the official website before you go, admission is subject to a fee.

    Natural History Museum of Utah

    Paleontological discoveries, including the remains of some previously unknown dinosaurs found in Utah, and artifacts from the native culture are the main points of interest of this beautiful museum, which enjoys a decidedly fortunate position, offering among other things a beautiful view of the Salt Lake Valley.

    The Living Room

    If the view from the museum was not enough, you should know that you will find the The Living Room Trailhead, the start of a path of about 3,5 km (round trip) that will take you to a higher point, where some rocks have been set up as a living room, to allow you to enjoy the view of the valley in comfort , as if you were in your own living room (hence the name Living Room).

    Hogle Zoo

    Although it is not very large, it is Utah’s Hogle Zoo arouses a certain interest from visitors and among its approximately 1000 animals you can see elephants, giraffes, tigers, gorillas, rhinos, sea lions, lions, zebras, bears and much more ...

    Utah Museum of Fine Arts

    Don't expect the Metropolitan in New York or the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, however the elements of interest are there, especially for art lovers. The collection ranges from ancient to contemporary art, hosting works from all over the world, as time for a complete visit estimated around 2 hours. Among the various activities in which it is involved, the museum promotes Land Art, a type of art that directly affects the landscape by sculpting the earth itself or creating structures with materials extracted from nature.

    Some well-known examples in the Great Salt Lake Valley are The Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson, a large spiral of earth protruding on the northern side of the lake, e Sun Tunnels by Nancy Holt, installation of 4 large cylinders arranged on the desert in the shape of a cross, aligned at sunrise and sunset on the summer and winter solstices. To find out more, take a look at the video below:

    NBA a Salt Lake City: gli Utah Jazz

    Have you always wanted to watch an NBA game live? If you find yourself in Salt Lake City why not take the opportunity to see a competition Utah Jazz, the team of legendary John Stockton and Carl Malone?

    The matches take place at the Living Smart Home Arena (301 W South Temple) located in the heart of Downtown, and therefore easily accessible. Furthermore, thanks to a special discount code dedicated to ForTravelAdviceLovers readers, you will have the opportunity to save 10 euros on the ticket price.

    NBA Utah Jazz Tickets

    Enter the VIAGGIUSA code to get a 10 euro discount on a minimum purchase of 150 euro

    Where to eat

    I point out some places personally tested:

    If you are looking for a brioche or a coffee I recommend you Eva’s bakery, a pastry shop founded by Eva Coombs, a chef renowned for cooking with as much love as butter, so don't expect diet desserts, we're in America on the other hand! For those who go in search of a good market where to refuel, I recommend Harmons, which is among other things in front of theEagle Gate Parking, a good parking in a strategic position for visiting the city.

    Ruth’s Diner
    Eva’s Backery

    For dinner, if you are looking for a quaint place, with live music and American cuisine of substance, I suggest you move away from the center and enterEmigration Canyon, which marks the route the early Mormons followed to enter the valley, awaits you there Ruth’s Diner, a restaurant very popular with locals especially on Thursdays, when the BBQ evening is held. Below you can read the story of the enterprising Ruth.

    I ate in 2 excellent restaurants also on the outskirts of the city, I will point them out later, in the paragraph on where to sleep.

    Salt Lake City and Surroundings: Nature Tours and Excursions

    Visiting Salt Lake City does not only mean exploring the city to discover its historical and religious roots but also exploring its beautiful surroundings to understand, among other things, why this city is called this way. My advice is to dedicate at least one day to a road trip and discover so many Things to see around Salt Lake City:

    Antelope Island State Park

    Leaving the nondescript Syracuse suburbs northwest of Salt Lake City behind, you can cross a bridge over Great Salt Lake and arrive at Antelope Island. The landscape is truly impressive and the herds of bison that camp on the hills make it even more fascinating. If you are lucky, you may even spot some antelos, one of the fastest animals on earth.

    Hill Aerospace Museum

    About 30 minutes from Salt Lake City is this interesting aviation museum with an impressive collection of warplanes. The location is strategic and is a stop to be taken into serious consideration during the excursion to Antelope Island which is about 40 minutes away. As a stop for a snack I recommend Crown Burgers in Layton, the typical characteristic diner suitable for a stop on the road.

    Tour del Great Salt Lake State Park

    But, we said, what is the reason why the city is called this way? The presence of the neighbor Great Salt Lake State Park, able to give photographers spectacular views. Yet, crossing the bridge that leads to Antelope Island, you will have noticed that the vast lake that occupies 5000 sq km of land west of the city is not salt at all, but water. To get to know the delicate ecosystem of this lake, you can take advantage of one guided tour: the guide will also take you to some places where you can swim, and where floating has never been easier!

    Learn more about the tour

    Bonneville Salt Flats

    Of course, it is true that the Great Salt Lake it records a very high rate of salinity, but to see the real "salt lake" you have to go a long way from the city (about 90 miles from the center). Take I-80 W and, after Aragonite, you will notice that the landscape around you becomes a surreal expanse of salt: for about 60 miles it will be like this, up to the border with Nevada.

    At a certain point on the right you will find what looks like nothing more than a simple rest area, in reality it is much more, it is Bonneville Salt Flats, an impressive expanse of salt that stretches as far as the eye can see.

    Wasatch Mountains

    If you plan to stay a few days in the area, you could go along the paths of the neighbors Wasatch Mountains, known mostly as a winter sports tourism destination: interest in the Wasatches exploded after Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Games Olympics of 2002.

    Since then, a large number of skiers have invaded the resorts around the city (one above all, Park city), looking for a strategic accommodation to enjoy the well-equipped ski resorts in the area. If you want to enjoy the spectacle of these mountains without straying too far from the center, you can reach the beautiful ones Red Butte Gardens.

    Big Cottonwood Canyon Road

    This scenic mountain road generally leads to some very popular ski resorts but, during the summer, it is possible to follow it with the windows wide open, choosing one of the trails that branch off from the side of the road. How to take it? From Downtown you have to cut the city in half along the Veterans Memorial Highway (I-15) heading south and then head to the neighborhood Cottonwood West.

    Kennecott Copper Mine

    Not only immense salt lakes in Salt Lake City: in the outskirts of the city, and more precisely on the slopes of the southwestern mountain range of the Oquirrh Mountains, there is Kennecott Copper Mine, the largest open pit copper mine in the world. This artificial chasm of the earth is truly impressive: it is possible to have splendid views of it from above through a organized tour combined with a visit to the Great Salt Lake.

    Learn more about the tour

    Salt Lake City Tour to National Parks


    The City of Mormons can be a great base for visiting not only Yellowstone but also Grand Teton. For a detailed itinerary covering this route you can read my article on things to see between Salt Lake City and Yellowstone.

    But there is so much more! Salt Lake City is a good starting point for visiting other national parks as well. Of course, they are not exactly a stone's throw away, but if you are taking a long road trip you will by now be used to grinding miles. Here are the distances from 5 major parks in Utah, i cosiddetti Utah Mighty Five:

    • Capitol Reef National Park: 3:30
    • Arches National Park: 3:40
    • Canyonlands National Park: 4 ore
    • Bryce Canyon National Park: 4 ore
    • Zion National Park: 4:30

    To organize an itinerary that contemplates both Yellowstone and these natural wonders (as well as Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and other Southwestern parks) I recommend our ebook: Yellowstone and Utah Mighty Five in 16 days.

    For those who do not like to drive too long, there are 2 organized tours:

    • 6 days Mighty 5 Tour from Salt Lake City -> more information
    • Yellowstone and Utah Parks Tour from Las Vegas in 7 Days -> more information

    Where to sleep in Salt Lake City

    Gardner Village

    To move freely on foot and stay overnight in the nerve center of the city you will need to look for accommodation in the area Temple Square and Downtown.

    All accommodations near Temple Square

    However, if you are mindful of savings, staying overnight in the center may not be the most convenient choice, not only because the accommodations cost more than in the suburbs, but also because in many Downtown structures you will have to pay for parking as well.

    If you have a rental car (which is very useful if you do not want to limit your visit to the central area of ​​the city) I recommend that you also take a look in the suburbs, where you will spend less on accommodation and you will easily find free parking. In about 15 minutes you will be in the city center, which can be easily explored by car (you will park for a fee to visit it but in this way you will still save on the night parking) and the distance from the airport will also be more or less that.

    I have visited Salt Lake City 2 times and here are the suburban areas where I stayed overnight:

    • midvale: area with many services including the Gardner Village, a nice open-air mall built in the style of a bucolic village complete with a farm with activities for the little ones. In the area there is a Japanese restaurant where I ate really well, it's called Itto Sushi, probably in the United States the last thing that would come to your mind is to go out to eat Sushi but my wife doesn't think so 🙂. I slept at the Staybridge Suite but there is no shortage of accommodations with rooms available in the area -> all available accommodations 
    • North salt lake: area similar to Midvale, here too I have an excellent restaurant to recommend. Is called I love you pizza, and from the name you will have already understood what it is. Gloria and Mauro are very welcoming and will not hesitate to tell you their beautiful story, while you will taste one of the best pizzas I have ever eaten in the USA, with original products and prepared as God commands. I slept at the Best Western Plus Cottontree Inn, where I found myself very well, if you are looking for other accommodations you can follow this link -> all available accommodations

    Here is another eligible area that I have not tried directly:

    • West valley: the distances are basically those of Midvale and North Salt Lake. -> all available accommodations
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